Why it will take you three million years to reach Elon Musk’s level

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Elon Musk is the billionaire with the highest net worth in the world according to Forbes’ annual billionaires list, pushing Amazon chairman Jeff Bezos off his throne.

The Tesla founder accumulated $219 billion to-date, while Bezos actually lost $6 billion over the course of one year and now stands at $171 billion. As our chart based on average annual national wages shows, no normal person could ever hope to amass the wealth of their country’s richest billionaire by working a regular job.

To reach Musk levels of wealth, for example, the average U.S. resident would need to work three million years at the average annual wage of $69,392 given by the OECD for the year 2020.

Germans, on the other hand, would have to spend 900,000 years working for $53,475 per year to match Dieter Schwarz’s fortune of $47 billion. Schwarz is the owner of Schwarz-Gruppe, the conglomerate behind the supermarket chains Kaufland and Lidl, among others.

When looking at the median income, the data for which was not available for every country at the time of this article’s publication, the numbers get even more unfathomable.

According to the St. Louis Federal Reserve, the median personal income stood at $35,805 in the U.S. in 2020, which would ramp up the time needed to match Elon Musk to 6.1 million years.

While the owners behind brands like Louis Vuitton, Moët Hennessy or Zara are expected to feature prominently on this kind of list, the richest Canadian billionaire is emblematic for a new breed of the super rich: Changpeng Zhao is the CEO of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange Binance and has amassed a fortune of $55 billion to-date, a number his fellow Canadians would, on average, have to work 1.2 million years for.

While these numbers are already astronomical in affluent Western states, the wealth and income disparity is even bigger in nations with a lower average income and higher wealth disparity like India and China.

For example, the wealth of Mukesh Ambani, managing director of multinational conglomerate Reliance Industries Limited, was estimated at around $91 billion at the time of the billionaires list‘s publication.

With an average annual wage of roughly $5,000, residents of India would have to work more than 17 million years to match Ambani’s fortune.

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